By James Wall, Nurseryman.
Venue: National Gallery of Victoria.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Monet’s Garden exhibition, devoted to Claude Monet’s iconic garden at Giverny, France.
Upon entering the first room, For some reason I suddenly felt overcome with tingles and shivers down the back of my spine. I am not an art buff, but could sense this was something special. One of the very first paintings I looked at was of creamy white clematis with a smudges of green. The colours seemed to melt together. I knew then that I was in for a treat.
Other wonderful paintings of plants included ‘orangey red’ day lilies and yellow iris. These were both planted near the edge of his pond. Of course in the pond were the famed water lilies that he painted again and again, even destroying some paintings he felt were over-worked. The pond was something he created when he moved into his home in Giverny, a place about 80km from Paris. There he created a wonderful garden and took an avid interest in flowers and also a large vegetable garden. There was something to paint for all seasons.
Monet loved and grew many different types of water lilies. Some of them, like the tropicals, he even removed and put in a special greenhouse over winter to protect them. The most common water lily in France was the simple white form. Monet saw the new coloured hybids shown by the Bordeaux botanist Joseph Bory Latour-Marliac, and in 1894 ordered three varieties from him. Monet experimented with growing tropical and cold climate varieties. He had particular success raising blue cultivars from South America and white Egyptian types with external pink petals and and yellow lilies that blushed to red as they aged.
Claude Monet: “Now I really feel the landscape. It’s enchanting, its delicious”
As Monet’s sight failed, you could see some of frustration on canvas, while painting roses bushes in his garden. I think he had an operation which improved his vision, and then you saw variations in colours from the same scenes he had earlier painted. There was also a scrumptious painting of the classic wysteria, framed narrow but wide. Some of his canvasses were enormous.
We returned to the exhibition after some lunch and again I felt some underlying exhilaration. I think to see such a master’s work and to know he loved meeting botanists and nurseryman really appealed to me. Oh and of course his paintings aren’t too bad either !
The exhibition is on until September 8th and the cost is $26 for adults and $10 children. This includes a short movie of Monet’s actual garden in Giverny. This is displayed on a curved screen.
According to our own water lily experts at Lotus Watergardens, winter is a time to clean up the water lilies, removing all dead foliage. These are often quite slimy and gooey. I am sure Claude would have used his row boat for this job. The lilies can also be fed with a fertiliser tablet in September, and if large enough, re-potted. For more information, get down to Lotus Watergardens here at Gardenworld and see them potting water lilies right now…..and for a little bit of winter colour, why not plant some Water Hawthorn. I am sure it would make Monet proud.